MOSCOW - Russia has struck a deal to supply Venezuela with 30 Su-30 fighter jets and 30 helicopters, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted by news agencies as saying Friday.

The two countries have concluded a contract "on delivery of Su-30 warplanes and also a batch of helicopters -- 30 planes and 30 helicopters -- for more than one billion dollars," Ivanov said during a visit to the Salyut jet engine maker in Moscow.

The deal was announced ahead of a visit by President Hugo Chavez to Russia due to start on Tuesday, part of a world tour the Venezuelen leader is making.

Two Su-30s, a long-range intercept fighter jet, flew recently to Venezuela and back to participate in a military parade, "the most solid advertisement for the plane and its engines", Ivanov was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying.

The Vedomosti business daily on Thursday hailed the deal as a "historic" break into the South American market for Russia's arms industry, adding that it was a snub to the United States.

The United States has banned arms sales to Venezuela by US manufacturers.

The Venezuelan leader said on June 11 that his visit could see a deal on building a Kalashnikov assault rifle factory in Venezuela.

Venezuela announced this month it had received 30,000 such rifles from Russia, the first shipment of an order of 100,000 that was agreed in a 54-million-dollar deal with Moscow last year.

07/21/2006 14:14 GMT

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